34-year-old bachelor here. I love the single life. I’ve tried relationships in the past and I’m not good at them. I’m much better at being someone’s FWB than their BF. I’m sex positive, on PrEP, and love letting my freak flag fly. That said, here’s my dilemma: The guy I’ve been meeting up with for the past three months recently texted to say he tested positive for gonorrhea. I was lucky and didn’t catch it from him. (Two STD tests have confirmed this.) We’re not exclusive, so I wasn’t upset that he slept with someone else. In fact, more power to him! But last week he sent me a late night “WYD?” text and I didn’t respond. A few days later, he texted to ask if I was mad at him. I’m not mad, but after the gonorrhea thing I’m just not really feeling it with him anymore. I don’t want him to think I’m being judgmental, because I’m not. STIs are part of the single life and I get that. But something about a gonorrhea exposure killed the vibe for me and I don’t think I want to hook up with him again even though we have awesome chemistry in bed. Does that make me a bad FWB?
STR (Sexually Transmitting Rejection)
Dear STR (Sexually Transmitting Rejection),
I want to applaud you for knowing who you are and what you want. There’s no shame at all around being single and enjoying sex with multiple partners, especially when it sounds like you are being responsible (yay, PREP!). There are also no rules around having to be in a monogamous relationship in your 30s, or at any age. That said, I’d ask you to think about whether you just don’t want a relationship, or if you think you’re just “not good at them”, as you state. If you simply don’t want to be attached to someone, more power to you. But if you’re holding back because you feel you are deficient in some way, you may want to talk to a therapist about that.
Now, on to your question… Even if you’re living your best life sexually, you still want to put yourself and your health first. It’s normal for your self-preservation mechanism to kick in when someone tells you they have an STI, and for you to want to avoid a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable. As a therapist, I encourage everyone to pay attention to their emotional responses. Feelings are there to tell us something. In this case, your feelings of avoidance may be telling you it’s just not something you’re comfortable continuing. It’s not about judgment, it’s about your personal health and safety.
The downside to this, of course, is that you may lose out on what was otherwise a great sexual partner. I wonder if you’d feel more comfortable continuing a sexual relationship if you knew he had a clean bill of health before your next encounter? I think it’s perfectly fair, given the recent news, to say you’d prefer he show you recent negative test results for STIs before you hook up again. There’s also the possibility of suggesting the use of condoms, which are an extra layer of protection against STIs, in addition to your PREP for HIV prevention.
If neither sharing test results or using condoms would make a difference for you, I wonder what else might be going on? Perhaps, although you say you don’t judge him, you might be placing unfair generalizations onto him that you aren’t fully aware of, such as unconsciously viewing him as “dirty”, even though gonorrhea can happen to anyone? It may help to explore with an understanding and sex-positive LGBTQ therapist, to see if there might be some unconscious slut shaming going on. You could also talk to a friend, or join a community of other gay men, to hear what their thoughts might be (just watch out for trolls!).
Regardless, I would encourage you to communicate with your buddy. Ghosting him may cause unnecessary confusion and hurt. Feelings change in relationships, and you owe it to him to express that. How much you share about why you’re pumping the breaks is up to you, as long as you share something.
In a world where PREP can sometimes feel like a free pass, STIs are still a real thing! And flying your “freak flag” doesn’t mean you have to ignore your feelings. It’s most important to take care of yourself first, and avoid risk when you can. Feelings are allowed to change, but I encourage you to examine your own internal biases with a professional and to practice clear communication.
Jake Myers the Founder of LGBTQ Therapy Space , the first LGBTQ owned and operated national platform for teletherapy. He has a Masters in Clinical Psychology from Antioch University Los Angeles, with a specialization in LGBT Affirmative Psychotherapy, and is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist in both California and Florida.
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